Dana Holgorsen National Signing Day presser recap

Written by Stephen J. Nesbitt on .

West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen met with the media Wednesday to discuss the Mountaineers' 22-man recruiting class on National Signing Day.

• “It’s been a successful day today.” … I was excited to see the first one come in at 7:01, Mr. Henry out of Aliquippa gets the first-of-the-day award.” Twenty-two players over 11 states covered in this class. Overall number now is right at 85. "We're excited about getting those numbers to where they're healthy."

Rushel Shell was added on scholarship at midterm, so he counts toward this class, too.

• Early enrollees have been doing well. Can hear them lifting in the weight room below.

• Offensively, "we took a little bit of everything." Skyler Howard adds good depth, and that's much needed this offseason. William Crest "has been a target of quite some time." Developed a relationship with the staff, Tavon Austin and Geno Smith. WR coach Lonnie Galloway's first job when he was hired was to head to Baltimore's Dunbar High School to get to know Crest, and it worked.

• Staff was able to connect well with RB Dontae Thomas-Williams, who was one of their top RBs on the board.

• Have about 17 kids on offensive line, Holgorsen said. Have to do the same thing on the defensive line now. Got three bodies on the defensive line in this class; "don't know if they'll be able to compete right away." 

• Likes the "rangy" linebackers in this class.

• "Really excited about our safeties, obviously." Calls Dravon Henry one of the better players in the northeast; can play safety, nickel, can return kicks. "We feel like it'll be one of the best secondaries in college football." JUCO kid Jaylon Myers is a ballhawk. 

• Needs: "We're finally to a point where it wasn't a necessity to fill up [the roster] right now. ... Our numbers weren't where they needed to be."

• Attrition happens: Dante Campbell took a medical hardship redshirt, "so he's done for good" after three shoulder surgeries.

• JUCO numbers: Two of the six JUCOs are "three-year" guys, and two more have redshirt years available to them.

• QBs: Think you'll be able to avoid QB musical chairs this year? "I as well as 1.8 million people hope so." Performance last year wasn't good enough. "Been very candid" with Clint Trickett and Paul Millard, letting them know they are in a competition. Howard idolizes Russell Wilson, "for obvious reasons." Coaches will be able to meet with Crest in the summer, thanks to new NCAA rules, and that will help. "We should be in a much, much, much better position come Sept. 1 than we were a year ago."

• Maybe only two QBs available for spring camp: "It's not ideal." Trickett won't be ready for the first practice of spring, but "there's an outside chance" for after they return from spring break. Logan Moore is also moving back to QB for the spring. "They'll all get a bunch of reps."

• Crest: He's a very eager guy. Skill set is good; strong arm; athletic. Doesn't know what the adjustment period will be, and can't really answer that until coaches get to practice with him.

• OL Dontae Angus: Came over for a visit last weekend and had a great time. Had 10 official visitors this past weekend. Angus can really play on either side of the ball, but they've got him slotted on offense right now.

West Virginia’s 2014 recruiting class:

QB William Crest, 6-2, 210 lbs., Baltimore (Dunbar High School)

QB Skyler Howard (JUCO), 6-0, 205 lbs., Fort Worth, Texas (Riverside Community College)*

RB Dontae Thomas-Williams, 6-0, 221 lbs., Durham, N.C. (Hillside High School)

WR Jacob McCrary, 6-0, 182 lbs., Miami (Coral Reef High School)

WR Ricky Rogers, 6-1, 200 lbs., Monroeville (Gateway High School)*

WR Lamar Parker, 5-9, 170 lbs., Miami (Booker T. Washington High School)

OL Dontae Angus, 6-6, 330 lbs., Philadelphia (Martin Luther King High School)

OL Amanii Brown, 6-5, 285 lbs., Morgantown (Morgantown High School)

OL Yodny Cajuste, 6-6, 270 lbs., Hollywood, Fla. (Miramar High School)

OL Walter Rauterkus, 6-6, 286 lbs., Avon, Ohio (Avon High School)

OL Justin Scott (JUCO), 6-5, 290 lbs., Woodland Hills, Ca. (Pierce Community College)

OL Sylvester Townes (JUCO), 6-6, 285 lbs., Memphis, Tenn. (Coahoma Community College)*

DE Jaleel Fields, 6-3, 286 lbs., Aliquippa (Aliquippa High School)

DL Tyree Owens, 6-3, 260 lbs., Oviedo, Fla. (Oviedo High School)

LB Edward Muldrow (JUCO), 6-3, 215 lbs., Snellville, Ga. (Copiah-Lincoln Community College)*

LB Davonte James, 6-1, 233 lbs., Springfield, Ohio (Springfield High School)*

LB Xavier Preston, 6-3, 220 lbs., Jensen Beach, Fla. (Jensen Beach High School)

DB Keishawn Richardson (JUCO), 5-10, 170 lbs., Putnam City, Okla. (Northeastern Oklahoma A&M)*

CB Dravon Henry, 5-11, 185 lbs., Aliquippa (Aliquippa High School)

CB Jaylon Myers (JUCO), 6-2, 195 lbs., North Augusta, S.C. (Hutchinson Community College)

S Daejuan Funderburk, 6-1, 180 lbs., Washington, D.C. (Friendship Collegiate Academy)

* denotes early enrollee

Stephen J. Nesbitt: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. , 412-290-2183 and Twitter @stephenjnesbitt.

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About the Sabres - 02-05-14

Written by Seth Rorabaugh on .

A preview of the Sabres.

When and where: 7:30 p.m. EST. First Niagara Center.

TV: NBC Sports Network, TSN2, RDS.

Record: 15-32-8, 38 points. The Sabres are in last place in the Atlantic Division.

Leading Scorer: Cody Hodgson (right), 30 points (14 goals, 16 assists).

Last Game: 3-2 home loss to the Oilers, Monday. Jhonas Enroth made 25 saves for the Sabres.

Last Game against the Penguins: 3-0 road loss, Jan. 27. Ryan Miller made 31 saves for the Sabres.

Sabres Player We Would Bet Money On Scoring: None. We'll predict a shutout tonight.

Ex-Penguins on the Sabres: Randy Cunneyworth, player development coach; Matt D'Agostini, RW; Matt Moulson, LW (Moulson is a former draft pick who never played for the Penguins organization); Craig Patrick, advisor; Ken Sawyer, senior advisor.

Ex-Sabres on the Penguins: Jason Botterill, assistant general manager; Taylor Pyatt, LW; Andre Savard, professional scout.

Useless Sabres Trivia Vaguely Related to the Penguins: Nolan is one of two members of the 1985-86 Penguins who have served as a head coach in the NHL. The other is Cunneyworth who was the Canadiens' coach for part of the 2011-12 season.

Best Sabres Video We Could Find: One-time members of the Sabres going for a "final skate" at the Buffalo Memorial Auditorium after the team's final game in that facility in 1996:

Probable goaltenders: Marc-Andre Fleury (30-13-1, 2.25 GAA, .917 SV%) for the Penguins. Ryan Miller (14-21-3, 2.68 GAA, .925 SV%) for the Sabres.

Injuries: For the Penguins, left winger Chris Kunitz (undisclosed) and Matt Niskanen (undisclosed) are questionable. Defenseman Kris Letang (illness) and left winger Taylor Pyatt ("lower body") are out. Right wingers Beau Bennett (hand/wrist), Chris Conner (hand), Pascal Dupuis (knee), center Joe Vitale ("upper body") and goaltender Tomas Vokoun (blood clots) are on injured reserve. For the Sabres, defenseman Tyler Myers ("lower body") is doubtful. Center Cody McCormick ("upper body") and left winger Matt Moulson ("upper body") are on injured reserve.

Potential lines and defensive pairings: The Penguins did not hold a full morning skate. Consider this a guess at their lines and defensive pairings:

14 Chris Kunitz - 87 Sidney Crosby - 49 Brian Gibbons
36 Jussi Jokinen - 71 Evgeni Malkin - 18 James Neal
15 Tanner Glass - 16 Brandon Sutter - 59 Jayson Megna
39 Harry Zolnierczyk - 27 Craig Adams - 5 Deryk Engelland

44 Brooks Orpik - 7 Paul Martin
3 Olli Maatta - 2 Matt Niskanen
4 Rob Scuderi - 41 Robert Bortuzzo

-The Sabres held an optional morning skate. Their expected lines and defensive pairings are:

17 Linus Omark - 63 Tyler Ennis - 21 Drew Stafford
9 Steve Ott - 19 Cody Hodgson - 27 Matt D'Agostini
84 Philip Varone - 28 Zemgus Girgensons - 65 Brian Flynn
82 Marcus Foligno - 37 Matt Ellis - 32 John Scott

4 Jamie McBain - 5 Chad Ruhwedel
6 Mike Weber - 19 Christian Ehrhoff
20 Henrik Tallinder - 52 Alexander Sulzer


-The last time the Penguins played the Sabres, this happened:

-Kunitz has 199 career goals.

-Jokinen has 398 career points.

-Neal has 296 career points.

-Our live blog, direct from our couch, beings at approximately 7:15 p.m. Please tune in.

(Photo: Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

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Three notable actresses added to Fathers and Daughters starring Russell Crowe

Written by Barbara Vancheri on .


octaviaspencerIt’s a very good thing no one let “Fathers and Daughters” slip away.



In addition to Russell Crowe, Amanda Seyfried and Aaron Paul, the movie will star Octavia Spencer, Quvenzhane Wallis (the stunning young actress from “Beasts of the Southern Wild") and Diane Kruger, Variety reports. It will be shot in Pittsburgh starting this spring.


Spencer, an Oscar winner for her turn as Minny Jackson in “The Help,” will play the spirited head of the psychiatric clinic where Seyfried’s character counsels troubled children. Wallis will play a patient who hasn’t spoken a word for a year since her mother was murdered while Kruger (“Inglourious Basterds”) will play the sister-in law of Crowe’s character, who blames him for the death of her sister, according to the trade publication’s website.

Crowe will portray a Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist who is left to raise his 5-year-old daughter alone after a fatal car accident. The narrative toggles between the 1980s and present day. Seyfried plays his daughter.

Gabriele Muccino, whose directing credits include “The Pursuit of Happyness,” “Seven Pounds” and “Playing for Keeps,” is directing “Fathers and Daughters.” 


Photo of Octavia Spencer by Todd Wawrychuk, A.M.P.A.S.


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Unplugged: Flea comes clean on Super Bowl halftime

Written by Scott Mervis on .


fleaAP photo

The first rule of Super Bowl halftime is: you do not talk about Super Bowl halftime. 

Props to Flea for telling it like it is.

In response to questions -- from Living Color's Vernon Reid and Axl Rose, among others -- about the Red Hot Chili Peppers not being plugged in during the Super Bowl halftime, the bassist came clean, detailing what people have long suspected: it's not a legit performance.

Only the vocals were live when the Peppers came on to jam with Bruno Mars on "Give It Away." The rest of the sound was recorded earlier in the week. And that's how it always is, because you can't perfect concert sound in the middle of a football game.

Flea makes a good case for why the Chili Peppers faked it, saying they wouldn't do it normally but "when this Super Bowl gig concept came up, there was a lot of confusion amongst us as whether or not we should do it, but we eventually decided, it was a surreal-like, once in a life time crazy thing to do and we would just have fun and do it."

The Chili Peppers are a proven quantity. No one questions whether they can actually play -- same for the Stones, McCartney, The Who, etc. -- so there was no good reason for them to turn down the biggest music showcase in the world.

A few years ago, I asked Nils Lofgren of the E Street Band about playing live at the Super Bowl and he danced around the issue, being a good soldier but kind of copping to it: "Yeah, that's a tough one. I was playing live the whole time. We rehearsed for days and kind of like... regularly ... it's a part of that TV thing. And this is the most extraordinary TV show I ever did. There were like 10 producers, all these huddles with management. As best as I can see, what I played live is what I heard on TV. I can't promise it wasn't something I played two days earlier, but it sure didn't look like it to me. That's one of the nice things about being in a band - I'm not the bandleader, so while all the mangers and people are trying to grab Bruce in a side room and have meetings, I just keep doing what I'm doing unless I'm asked to do something different."

Now, Flea has gone on the record and we can all get past this. The Super Bowl halftime is fixed. If you want live, you have to go to the show and, um, hope that it's all real there.


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Comments on Pitt's football recruiting class ..... List of district recruits

Written by Mike White on .

Pitt's football recruiting class includes a good crop of offensive linemen. But overall, the Panthers' class is viewed as average.

At least that's what guys say who make a living out of rating players and recruiting classes. Pitt coach Paul Chryst signed 22 players today. The class has 23 recruits but Upper St. Clair's Rori Blair is already enrolled at the school for this semester. ranks Pitt's class 43rd in the country while ranked it 42nd. ESPN Recruiting Nation ranks Pitt's class ninth in the ACC.

Sam Werner of the Post-Gazette has a story on Pitt's class.

Mike GrimmThe offensive line recruits include two four-star players from the WPIAL - Mike Grimm of Bethel Park and Alex Bookser of Mt. Lebanon.

But it seems much of the talk concerning this class is the players the Panthers didn't get. Quarterback Wade Freebeck of St. Thomas Aquinas in Florida backed out of his verbal commitment and signed with Vanderbilt. The Panthers also were finalists for a few of the top players in the WPIAL but didn't land them, such as Gateway receiver-defensive back Montae Nicholson (Michigan State), Aliquippa defensive back Dravon Henry (West Virginia) and Washington running back Shai McKenzie (Virginia Tech).

But the Panthers did land seven WPIAL players.

Here are some comments from Mike Farrell, national recruiting analyst from

"There is good and bad to this class. The good is they did a good job on the offensive line. That's important to the foundation of an offense. The bad is a few guys got away and you don't want that to happen, especially if their local kids.

"Maybe the media built up expectations too much. I thought McKenzie would go to Pitt and I thought Montae would stay at home as well. When they don't do what myself and even some fans expect, it becomes a disappointment. Is Montae a difference maker? I don't know. On offense I think he is but I'm not sure about defense. McKenzie is a good running back and they could use him. But is he better than Chris James [running back recruit from Illinois]? That's a tossup. But Chris James is not a consolation prize. He is a terrific running back.

"Under Dave Wannstedt they really did a good job in Western Pennsylvania, but he never won the Big East. Can you win the ACC with just Western Pa. kids? Absolutely not. But if there are kids in your back yard and you've got a geographical advantage, you really need to take advantage of it.

"That being said, if I have my choice of getting Montae and Shai McKenzie, or a good offensive line class, I'd take the good offensive line class."

James got a four-star rating from Pitt also got another talented running back in Qadree Ollison of Niagara Falls and a quarterback in Adam Bertke of Maria Stein, Ohio.

Here are some comments from Brian Dohn, national/Northeast recruiting analyst for

"To miss out on Nicholson and Henry were big because I think both are really good players and if you want to win, it starts on defense, and those kids can play in the secondary.

elijah zeise"I'd keep Shai McKenzie out of the loop because I don't know if they really wanted Shai McKenzie. They already had Qadree Ollison and Chris James when Shai was on the board. From Western Pa., I think it was great that they got Bookser and I know Elijah Zeise (pictured) is a nice player. 

"But you want them to lock it down out in the Pittsburgh area. Losing Robert Foster to Alabama [last year] was one thing. But when you lose a kid to Michigan State, one to West Virginia and one to Virginia Tech, that's a little troubling.

"But I really like the running backs in this class and the offensive line is good. I like the depth they have there. And another thing is I think they went for kids with character. I think that was a big point in this class. I think they wanted to concentrate on not only do you have to be a good player, but you also have to be a good kid.

"When you look at the depth of what Paul Chryst and his coaches are doing, they are trusting in their own evaluations, which is big. They evaluate kids and it doesn't matter what other schools are doing or other people are saying about those kids. They're trusting their own evaluations."

WPIAL recruits

Below is a list of Division I-A recruits from the WPIAL. One tidbit first. Sage Curry, a tight end-fullback-linebacker from Beaver Falls, had committed to West Virginia last summer. But he will not sign with WVU. Beaver Falls coach Ryan Matsook said Curry most likely will attend a junior college, possibly Lackawanna in Eastern Pennsylvania.

Now the list:

AKRON - Brock Boxen, Beaver Falls (DL, 6-3 – 260); Chandler Kincade, Blackhawk (QB, 6-4, 210).

BALL STATE – Jake McPhatter, New Castle (RB-DB, 5-11, 170).  

BOWLING GREEN - Andrew Podbielski, Blackhawk (TE-DL,  6-5 – 235).

FLORIDA STATE – J.J. Cosentino, Central Catholic (QB, 6-4, 215).

KENT STATE – Connor Shinsky, Knoch (OL-DL, 6-5, 250).

MASSACHUSETTS – Charan Singh, Franklin Regional (QB-DB, 6-1, 170).

MICHIGAN - Chase Winovich, Thomas Jefferson ( LB,  6-3, 216).

MICHIGAN STATE – Montae Nicholson, Gateway (WR-DB, 6-3, 205).

NAVY – Tory Delmonico, West Allegheny (RB-LB, 6-3, 203).

OHIO STATE - Malik Hooker, New Castle (WR-DB, 6-2, 185).

PENN STATE – Troy Apke, Mt. Lebanon (WR, 6-2, 186). 

PITT - Rori Blair, Upper St. Clair (DE, 6-3, 225); Alex Bookser, Mt. Lebanon (OL, 6-6, 295); Dennis Briggs, Shady Side Academy (RB-DB, 5-11, 195); JaQuan Davidson, Elizabeth Forward (QB-WR-DB, 6-2, 173); Mike Grimm, Bethel Park (OL, 6-6, 325); Quintin Wirginis, Fox Chapel (LB, 6-2, 225); Elijah Zeise, North Allegheny (WR-DB, 6-2, 185).

TEMPLE -  Delvon Randall, Gateway (WR-DB, 6-1, 185); Brenon Thrift, Gateway (LB, 6-3, 230); Lenny Williams, Sto-Rox (QB, 5-11, 197).

TOLEDO – Terry Swanson, Aliquippa (RB-DB, 5-10, 187).

VANDERBILT – Tre Tarpley, Central Catholic (DB, 6-1, 195).

VIRGINIA - Darrious Carter, Indiana (DE, 6-5, 205).

VIRGINIA TECH – Shai McKenzie, Washington (RB, 6-0, 216).

WEST VIRGINIA – Jaleel Fields, Aliquippa (OL-DL, 6-2, 287); Dravon Henry, Aliquippa (RB-DB, 6-2, 187); Ricky Rogers, Gateway (WR, 6-1, 200).

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